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What is Mental Capacity?

Supporting capacity: woman being pushed in wheelchair, looking at the sun

Making decisions

In our everyday lives, we make countless decisions, both big and small. From the relatively simply choice of what to wear and when to have for breakfast, to the much larger decisions such as where we’d like to live, or where to go on holiday.

Some decisions are naturally more complicated than others, yet more often than not, we process the options and make choices in a relatively quick time – demonstrating our implicit capacity for decision-making, either directly or indirectly.

It is this process of decision-making, and the way we process relevant information, that we describe as ‘Mental Capacity’.

What is Mental Capacity?

Put simply, Mental Capacity is the ability to make a specific decision at a specific time, with support if needed. In order to do this, one must be able to understand and retain relevant information, weigh up the options and then communicate a choice.

When we talk about Mental Capacity, it always relates to a specific decision at a specific time. No person should ever be described as ‘lacking capacity’ in general terms or for all decisions.

Helping those who can’t make decisions for themselves

If it is determined that an individual lacks a specific form of Mental Capacity at a particular point in time, they fall under the protection of the Mental Capacity Act (2005, 2019) in England and Wales. This applies across a range of settings including home, education, care placements and beyond.

The Mental Capacity Act is a vital safeguard that ensures individual Human Rights are protected and are not dismissed or ignored. It also ensures professional best practice and a person-centred approach.

Understanding your role

The Mental Capacity Act is an extremely important piece of legislation, and has the potential to impact on many different areas of life.

It is the explicit responsibility of anyone who deals with someone who lacks (or may lack) capacity for a specific decision to understand the Mental Capacity Act, its principles and applications. The amount of knowledge required by a professional should be proportionate to their role and responsibilities.

It is important to note that without sufficient knowledge and appropriate use of the Mental Capacity Act, as professionals, we are liable to litigation. However, the Act also provides safeguards and protections to both the individual and professional teams if used appropriately under Section 5 of the Mental Capacity Act.

Support with the Mental Capacity Act

Here at Mental Capacity Ltd, we have a growing range of blogs and other resources that can be explored covering the Mental Capacity Act and more. We can also offer bespoke training for your team in all aspects of the Mental Capacity Act, and can even carry out Mental Capacity Assessments on your behalf. To find out more, please browse our services.